Your gums are a critical component of oral health, and deserve some discussion of their own.
Healthy gums support and cushion your teeth and help to protect them from decay. Taking care of your gums is taking care of your teeth.
Gum disease is most often caused by plaque build up due to poor dental hygiene, but other factors such as genetic predisposition, illnesses that affect the immune system, and smoking can increase the risk significantly. There are two major types of gum disease: gingivitis and periodontitis.
Gingivitis is caused by a buildup of bacteria that live in plaque. This causes the gums to become red and inflamed, which can cause bleeding and pain during brushing. Although the gum tissue is irritated, no damage occurs to the teeth or jaw at this point. However, if allowed to progress, Gingivitis can (but doesn’t always) lead to a more serious condition, periodontitis.
Periodontitis, or infection of the gums, is a serious disease that can damage gums, cause tooth loss, and even damage the jawbone. It occurs when the gum tissue and bone pull away from teeth, forming small pockets that can become infected. Toxins collect in these spaces, and slowly erode the bone and tissue that surround teeth. This erosion loosens teeth, eventually causing them to fall out, and can eat away at bone in the jaw.
The great news is that gum disease can usually be prevented—and often reversed, if identified early—by good oral hygiene. Brush and floss daily, and have your teeth cleaned twice a year.
If regular brushing hurts your gums, or if you notice them bleeding, you can always come in for an exam to be sure everything is okay. We’re always here to help.